I’ve never played field hockey before, but I can appreciate it.

I’ve been to games, and though the rules were somewhat confusing, they were a lot of fun to watch. I find field hockey to be an intriguing sport, and one that takes a great deal of patience and skill to master.

It’s also a sport that seems to accept gay athletes more than other sports (ahem, women’s basketball).

That is why Ashley Gradwell, a sophomore and member of Quinnipiac University’s field hockey team, wasn’t afraid to participate in a photography exhibit that portrays gay and lesbian student-athletes from a variety of sports and various universities around the country.

The exhibit is called “Fearless” and was created by artist Jeff Sheng, whose artwork is represented by Kaycee Olsen Gallery in Los Angeles. Sheng is best known for his art projects that integrate photography with social activism.

The “Fearless” exhibit was on display during the 2010 Olympic games at Pride House, and has also been on display at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn (which is quite the honor).

As a lesbian athlete, Gradwell is proud to be a part of such an exhibit. “Being gay on campus is not a ‘big’ thing. I know people who are gay and aren’t out, because it’s too scary for them,” she said on the university website.

“They’re afraid of being treated differently. I’m one of the few that are open about it. I think that’s the best way — it’s good for people to be aware.”

I couldn’t agree more.

In addition to participating in the photography exhibit, Gradwell is also a two-year member of G.L.A.S.S. (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Supporters) on campus, and serves as the co-secretary. The purpose of the group is to educate individuals in the Quinnipiac University community about LGBT-related issues.

Gradwell was photographed for the “Fearless” exhibit at the Quinnipiac Field Hockey and Lacrosse Turf Complex last Wednesday. Both of her coaches were on hand to show their support.

Head coach Becca Kohli said of Gradwell, “She’s a prime example of both an elite Division I student-athlete and how strong her convictions are in her sexuality and her activism. I’m very excited that Ashley will represent Quinnipiac in this world-renowned exhibit.”